Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Students Get Down to Joy of Marbles

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Students Get Down to Joy of Marbles

Article excerpt

Cathy Runyan hasn't lost her marbles, but she has given away about 333,000 of them.

Runyan, known as the Marble Lady, is shooting to bring back the popularity of playing marbles. The mother of five from Kansas City travels the country telling a bit about the history of marbles, showing old marble toys, displaying some of the old marbles in her collection and giving students a chance to shoot marbles - just like kids have done for centuries - at least until the age of television.

Runyan brought her traveling show to Hollenbeck Middle School on Wednesday as part of the school's creative arts festival.

She said that for those born after 1953 or 1954, "chances are they haven't played marbles because of television or asphalt playgrounds." While today's kids cut holes in the knees of their pants to be cool, she said, "kids used to wear their jeans out at the knees" playing marbles.

Runyan told the students assembled in the library that marbles were ancient toys. They were found in King Tut's tomb, she said. The early Romans and Greeks played with them, too. They made theirs out of marble scraps, hence their name.

"It's the oldest game in the world," she said.

In this country, nomadic Indians would leave rough pieces of clay in jars under waterfalls, letting the power of the water tumble them, Runyan said. When the Indians returned six months later, they found round marbles.

The first American marble company was founded 101 years ago, Runyan said, showing students a bottle nearly that old with a marble inside. When soda was poured into the bottle, carbonation forced the marble to the top of the neck, closing it. When the marble was pushed downward, there was a fizzing sound of escaping gas. That gave us the phrase "soda pop," she said.

Runyan started playing marbles when she was age 8. Because her four brothers and friends wouldn't let her play ball with them, her grandfather gave her some marbles and taught her how to play. Later, when the boys consented to let her play marbles with them, "I whipped their tails," she said.

But when she grew up, she put her marbles away. She forgot about them until 10 years ago, when her own children found the collection and asked how to play. …

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